In 2018 I had the great privilege of being in Jerusalem with 2,000 other believers as a delegate at Gafcon – the Global Anglican Futures Conference. It was one of the great moments of my life, and I will always be grateful to the council of Christ Church for their support in sending me there. The sheer joy of being in the city where Jesus died and rose, praying and worshipping with brothers and sisters from some many nations, all one in Christ Jesus, is indescribable. One thing was forcibly impressed on me: that the centre of gravity of Christianity has shifted from Europe and North America to Africa and South America. Not only in terms of numbers, but in leadership and vision.
Jerusalem 2018 was the third Gafcon. Before that there was a conference in Nairobi, Kenya in 2013, and the original Gafcon in Jerusalem in 2008. There will be a fourth in Kigali, Rwanda in 2023. What began as a conference has become a movement to renew, reform, and refresh the Anglican family of churches, to restore the Bible to the heart of the Anglican Communion, and to “proclaim Christ faithfully to the nations” – the watchword of Gafcon 2018.
The first Gafcon was held because of a specific problem: in 2003 The Episcopal Church (the American branch of Anglicanism) had appointed a homosexual manner as a bishop, in defiance of both of the teachings of the Bible and of the pleas of other Anglican churches not to do this. But this was only one symptom of a deeper corruption: like many churches in the Western world, Anglican churches in North America and Europe, had become infected by a “different Gospel” that rejected the authority of God’s word, and denied that salvation is found in Christ alone- a false Gospel sometimes referred to as “theological liberalism”. Gafcon then exists to call churches back to faithfulness to the true Gospel and to proclaim that Good News.
I serve on the council of reference for Gafcon Great Britain & Europe (https://gafcongbe.org/ ). Here, Gafcon has two branches: the Anglican Mission in England, for faithful Anglican churches in England, (https://www.anglicanmissioninengland.org/ ), and the Anglican Convocation in Europe (https://aceanglicans.org/ ), for faithful Anglican churches elsewhere in Europe. Together they form the Anglican Network in Europe (https://www.anglicannetwork.org/ ), under the leadership of Bishop Andy Lines. Christ Church hasn’t yet joined either of these, but I take part in their prayer meetings, and we give thanks to God for them and pray for their work.
One very important thing that the first Gafcon did was to issue the Jerusalem Declaration. This is part of a wider Jerusalem Statement which gives the background to it. I can remember opening my emails that morning in 2008, reading the Declaration, and weeping, because they had come up with something so good. It provides a confessional statement around which faithful, Gospel-preaching, bible-believing churches can unite in loyalty to Christ and in obedience to his mission.
The council of Christ Church Düsseldorf has twice affirmed the Jerusalem Declaration. First in January 2017, when it asked that all those who preach at Christ Church should do so in accordance with the JD, and in December 2019, when we voted on guidelines for council members, and said that “Council members should accept that the Council has affirmed the Jerusalem Declaration, and are encouraged to affirm it themselves”. In November 2017, we also left the Council of Anglican and Episcopal Churches in Germany (CAECG), because of the false teaching in The Episcopal Church, and in 2018 the council kindly supported me in going to Gafcon 2018 in Jerusalem.
At recent church council meetings, I have been teaching through the Jerusalem Declaration, and I plan to turn these into a series of blog posts on each of its articles. For now, I would encourage everyone at Christ Church to read the Jerusalem Declaration carefully- the text is below. More about it can be found on the Gafcon website here: https://www.gafcon.org/about/jerusalem-declaration, where you can also sign the Jerusalem Declaration for yourself.
The Jerusalem Declaration
In the name of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit:
We, the participants in the Global Anglican Future Conference, have met in the land of Jesus’ birth. We express our loyalty as disciples to the King of kings, the Lord Jesus. We joyfully embrace his command to proclaim the reality of his kingdom which he first announced in this land. The gospel of the kingdom is the good news of salvation, liberation and transformation for all. In light of the above, we agree to chart a way forward together that promotes and protects the biblical gospel and mission to the world, solemnly declaring the following tenets of orthodoxy which underpin our Anglican identity.
- We rejoice in the gospel of God through which we have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Because God first loved us, we love him and as believers bring forth fruits of love, ongoing repentance, lively hope and thanksgiving to God in all things.
- We believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God written and to contain all things necessary for salvation. The Bible is to be translated, read, preached, taught and obeyed in its plain and canonical sense, respectful of the church’s historic and consensual reading.
- We uphold the four Ecumenical Councils and the three historic Creeds as expressing the rule of faith of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
- We uphold the Thirty-nine Articles as containing the true doctrine of the Church agreeing with God’s Word and as authoritative for Anglicans today.
- We gladly proclaim and submit to the unique and universal Lordship of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, humanity’s only Saviour from sin, judgement and hell, who lived the life we could not live and died the death that we deserve. By his atoning death and glorious resurrection, he secured the redemption of all who come to him in repentance and faith.
- We rejoice in our Anglican sacramental and liturgical heritage as an expression of the gospel, and we uphold the 1662 Book of Common Prayer as a true and authoritative standard of worship and prayer, to be translated and locally adapted for each culture.
- We recognise that God has called and gifted bishops, priests and deacons in historic succession to equip all the people of God for their ministry in the world. We uphold the classic Anglican Ordinal as an authoritative standard of clerical orders.
- We acknowledge God’s creation of humankind as male and female and the unchangeable standard of Christian marriage between one man and one woman as the proper place for sexual intimacy and the basis of the family. We repent of our failures to maintain this standard and call for a renewed commitment to lifelong fidelity in marriage and abstinence for those who are not married.
- We gladly accept the Great Commission of the risen Lord to make disciples of all nations, to seek those who do not know Christ and to baptise, teach and bring new believers to maturity.
- We are mindful of our responsibility to be good stewards of God’s creation, to uphold and advocate justice in society, and to seek relief and empowerment of the poor and needy.